Young minds with big ideas: Meet the whiz kids of the White House Science Fair

Jonathan Karl, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players
Young minds with big ideas: Meet the whiz kids of the White House Science Fair

Politics Confidential

10-year-old Evan Jackson had just made a touchdown in his football game, but he had to be pulled off to the sideline because he had overheated. It got him thinking, along with his brother Alec and cousin Caleb: what if there were a way to keep football players cool and hydrated without having to leave the field?

The three boys--all elementary school students from McDonough, Georgia--came up with a prototype of a hydration and cooling system for football players. And along with 30 students, they were invited to present their award-winning science and engineering project to President Obama at the 3rd Annual White House Science Fair.

“The idea of cool pads is shoulder pads that have an ice pack and Gatorade built in to prevent against heat exhaustion and save lives,” they explain to Politics Confidential, pointing to their display set up inside the White House. “It works by using three basic features--the compression shirt, the helmet, and the shoulder pads.”

When the boys started getting together on Friday afternoons to work on their project, they didn’t expect that it would bring them all the way to the White House, but they all agree that it’s been a pretty cool experience, saying in unison: “We want to let all kids know they can be awesome in athletics and science!”

Another invention that got the president spinning (literally!) at the science fair is a bicycle that can generate 50 gallons of clean water in just 20 minutes.

“It is an emergency water sanitation station so our bicycle generates power in order to filter out dirty water that could provide people in tropical areas clean water in the event of a natural disaster,” 18-year-old Kiona Elliot explains, along with her 16-year-old co-inventor Payton Kaar.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl couldn’t resist taking the bike for a spin himself, and asked the inventors if he was generating more clean water than the president.

“Well I don't think we're going to answer that question,” the high school students politely replied with a laugh.

Elliot and Karr were thrilled to be recognized at the president’s science fair, but they say that’s not what motivated them in creating the bicycle-powered water cleaning system.

“We didn't do it for any special recognition; we did it because we saw a need in the world and we wanted to help it,” Elliot says.

To hear more about these big ideas from young brains, and to judge for yourself whether President Obama or Jonathan Karl generated more clean water, check out this episode of Politics Confidential.

ABC''s Mary Bruce, Eric Wray, Alexandra Dukakis, Michael Conte, Ginny Vicario, and Mary Quinn contributed to this episode.